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    #1

    modification and time adverbial

    Sometimes, when I am particularly depressed, I ascribe our behavior to stupidity.

    Is the word "sometimes" used to modify "ascribe" or "am depressed"?

    If I delete the comma, then we have the following:

    Sometimes when I am particularly depressed, I ascribe our behavior to stupidity.

    Is the meaning changed? Thanks.


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    #2

    Re: modification and time adverbial

    Hello Ian,

    I would say that (in both versions) "sometimes" qualifies "I ascribe our behavior to stupidity", and that "when I am particularly depressed" qualifies "sometimes".

    Best wishes,

    MrP

    Not a professional ESL teacher.

  1. Raymott's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: modification and time adverbial

    Quote Originally Posted by ian2 View Post
    Sometimes, when I am particularly depressed, I ascribe our behavior to stupidity.

    Is the word "sometimes" used to modify "ascribe" or "am depressed"?

    If I delete the comma, then we have the following:

    Sometimes when I am particularly depressed, I ascribe our behavior to stupidity.

    Is the meaning changed? Thanks.

    I'd suggest that the comma makes a difference.
    The first sentence implies that the "sometimes" = "when I am depressed", and that on each such occasion, you ascribe behaviour to stupidity.
    Without the comma, it means that only on some occasions when you are depressed do you ascribe behaviour to stupidity.

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    #4

    Re: modification and time adverbial

    Dear Mr.P and Raymott:

    Thank you both. My original idea was:

    In both cases (with or without comma), the word "sometimes" qualifies "ascribe behavior to stupidity". That is clear to me. But do you think the first one can be rewritten as "When I am particularly depressed, I sometimes ascribe behavior to stupidity"? This sounds like he does not ascribe each time when he is depressed, right? Just a little confused.

    but in the second one without the comma, "when I am depressed" qualifies "sometimes", which means each time you are depressed, you ascribe...

    In other words, I am just the opposite to Raymott. Maybe Mr.P can further explain. Thanks again

    Ian
    Last edited by ian2; 14-Jul-2008 at 04:37.

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    #5

    Re: modification and time adverbial

    Hello Ian,

    Raymott has convinced me about the 2nd version. But in the first version, though my "default" interpretation remains as before, I now find some ambiguity, i.e.

    1. When I am particularly depressed, I sometimes ascribe our behavior to stupidity.

    i.e. not always, when I am depressed.

    2. Sometimes, namely when I am particularly depressed, I ascribe our behavior to stupidity.

    i.e. always, when I am depressed.

    (In spoken English, the intonation of the original sentence would differ, according to the intended meaning.)

    All the best,

    MrP

    Not a professional ESL teacher.

  2. Raymott's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: modification and time adverbial

    Quote Originally Posted by MrPedantic View Post

    (In spoken English, the intonation of the original sentence would differ, according to the intended meaning.)
    Yes, and in this case, the comma does make a difference since it gives a clue to the intonation. As in the sentence preceding this one, the phrase surrounded by commas is parenthetical - leave out the phrase and you still have a sentence. In the original sentence, the sense is "Sometimes I ascribe our behaviour to stupidity", and the parenthetical "when I am depressed" clarifies when that "sometimes" is. The writer could have used dashes or parentheses without a change in meaning.

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